Athletes like soccer players are recognizing the benefits of a regular yoga practice. Even all stars like Ronaldo and Messi are including it into their training routines. Ryan Giggs has credited yoga to resolving hamstring injuries and allowing him to play professional soccer for more than 20 years!
Recently, I partnered up with the soccer academy Rush Canada, to collaborate on a yoga for soccer players class. And the result was a 20-minute power yoga inspired workout that you can do anytime, anywhere.
Yoga For Soccer Players Follow Along Video Class:
Here’s the 20-minute yoga for soccer players video class:
What’d you think?
Notice how this class opens up your legs and hips? Stand up and walk around a bit afterwards. Feels great, doesn’t it?
And it only takes 20 minutes out of your day!
If you struggled with anything in the video, and/or you want some additional homework, keep reading. I’ll give you some tips for these poses and how to modify this practice if need be.
Let’s dive in!
Firstly, Pay Attention To Your Breath
One thing you’ll notice in the yoga for soccer players class, is that you’ll hear me cue your movements throughout the class (ie. “inhale halfway lift”, “exhale fold forward”).
Controlled breathing is a main component of yoga.
Whenever you’re moving through a yoga sequence, think about inhaling on any opening postures. Exhale on any closing ones. As you lift in an upward-facing dog, for example, your chest is opening and you’re inhaling. Moving back to a downward-facing dog, you exhale.
Why is this important?
Well, one of the most powerful benefits of a yoga practice is the mind-body connectedness. You learn how to control your breath and use it to guide your movements. As a result, you’re in tune with the present moment.
Suddenly, you’re no longer thinking about the ‘what-ifs’ about the future, or the ‘pains or regrets’ of the past.
Yoga helps you to focus
High-performance psychologist Dr. Michael Gervais, who has worked with top-tier athletes in multiple sports categories said,
“…when it matters most, is now. It’s not later… it’s not the Super Bowl… it’s not your Everest… it’s not the pitch that you’re gonna give to a VC firm… that’s not the moment. The moment is now. And it’s always now.” – from Lewis Howes’ Podcast
By moving with your breath, you find yourself becoming more focused. More in control. You’re focused on that breath. That movement. Focused on the now.
And there are actual physiological effects going on. Firstly, your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is responsible for controlling your bodily functions. Like respiratory rate, heart rate, digestion, urination, sexual arrousal, etc…
It is divided into two branches: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS).
These are mostly antagonist of each other (think light-switch between SNS & PSNS). Interestingly, through controlled breathing you can regain control over your Autonomic Nervous system and flick that light-switch in your favour!
The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) triggers fight-or-flight response in moments of high-stress.
This was critical to our ancestors’ survival.
Suddenly, a mountain lion attacks and SNS lights you up with a waterfall of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. And like nitrous oxide in a car you’re ready to GO!
Of course, this isn’t bad for athletes. These responses light up your game and help you to compete at your best.
Trouble is: turning it off.
And this is where yoga can also be a a powerful tool for soccer players focus and inner game. The clarity in mind will help you play better tactically on the field. More importantly, you can learn to find focus and calmness under extreme pressure.
How to Turn Off ‘Fight-or-Flight’ Mode
With yoga, you learn to do so by bringing awareness to your breath and connecting it with your body’s movements. By controlling your breath, you tap into the parasympathetic nervous system. Responsible for ‘rest-and-digest’.
Most people are wound up so tight. They’re always stressed out and anxious. The mountain lions of our days are bills, relationship problems, and confrontations at work.
Through controlled breathing, you can cool your SNS’s jets and allows you to recover.
This is why yoga is so potent. Controlled breathing is a large component of practice. It allows you to create a ‘union’ between body and mind!
While BBY methods are different from traditional yoga practice, the focus on the breath is still a big part.
Finally, try to maintain breathing through your nose. And I recommend learning Ujjayi breathing and practicing it throughout this sequence.
What is ‘Ujjayi Breathing’?
Before we move on to the actual yoga poses for soccer players, let’s talk about a common breathing technique in yoga.
This is a controlled breathing technique that adds a little restriction in the back of your throat. Done correctly, it sounds slightly oceanic. Like waves.
Here’s an video teaching how to do Ujjayi breathing.
Now that you understand breathing and why it’s important, let’s move on to the actual yoga poses.
Yoga For Soccer Players Class Instructions
Now let’s talk about the actual yoga poses for soccer players we used in the video.
Interestingly, I read that Lionel Messi finishes his day with a power yoga routine created by Rodney Yee.
As someone who has spent many hours in front of the TV with Yee’s Power Yoga DVD’s, I can see why Messi works with him. His classes are excellent.
Further, out of the different styles of yoga, I believe Power yoga is a great fit for athletes like soccer players. It’s a little faster paced and can feel like a dynamic workout at times. Usually, athletes favour this style for its well-roundedness in building strength, stability, mobility, and flexibility.
Now, before we get into a couple of movement sequences I wanted to introduce you to, the class starts off as we stretch out our feet and ankles:
Best Foot and Ankle Stretches for Soccer Players:
These are great stretches for athletes! What’s more, they’re simple. Once you finish up a soccer practice or game, kick off your shoes and do these stretches.
We started with them in the class. First up, this foot stretch:
Start by tucking your toes, then sit back onto your heals. Hold it here for at least 20 seconds before moving on to the ankle/shin stretch:
First, you will extend your feet so the tops of them are on the mat. Then, you’ll sit back on your heels. This might already be an intense stretch. Otherwise, feel free to try lifting either knee off the ground to intensify the stretch through the shin:
Alternatively, you may want to try a more advanced variation of this stretch. Lifting both of your knees:
And if you want more, you can even lift your hands off of the ground:
Use these stretches how you see fit. They’re great for stretching out the muscles soccer players constantly use running around on the field!
Enter Vinyasa A & Vinyasa B Series
In this class, I wanted to include ‘Vinyasa A’ and ‘Vinyasa B’ sequences to stay true to power vinyasa. What’s more, I believe these are great sequences to become familiar with linking breath to movement. Perfect for those who are new to the practice.
In this yoga for soccer players class in particular, we move through three series of Vinyasa A, followed by three of Vinyasa B. These are sequences of poses that form the ‘warm-up’ portion of your class.
Vinyasa A Series
After the initial foot and ankle stretches, we open up the yoga for soccer players practice by moving through a Vinyasa A. Also called ‘Sun Salutation A’.
Here’s the Vinyasa A sequence:
One thing to note, is that in the yoga for soccer players class, we skip the inhale while in high-plank. Rather, the exhale on the way back brings you right into low plank position.
This just makes your movement practice a little quicker in pace.
Finally, let’s break down each position individually.
1. Standing Position
As you come to a standing position, your hands rise overhead. Palms pressing together.
2. Forward Fold
On an exhale, hinge at your hips as you fold over your legs. Keep a modest bend into your knees if your hamstrings are tight.
3. Halfway Lift
As you inhale, bring your palms to your shins and lift your torso, so it is parallel with the ground.
4. Plank > Low Plank / Chaturanga
On your next exhale, step (or jump) back into a high plank, moving right through to low plank (or chaturanga). You can also drop your knees to the ground if you need (especially if setting up for baby cobra).
5. Baby Cobra / Upward Facing Dog
With an inhale breath, you’ll lift your chest – either through an upward facing dog or ‘baby cobra pose’. To do the baby cobra pose:
Come all the way down onto your stomach. Pressing the tops of your feet into the ground, and engaging the thighs, you will lift your chest off of the ground. Don’t use your hands, rather the muscles in your lower back to lift you.
If you’re comfortable with this position, you’re ready for upward facing dog:
Instead of coming down onto your stomach, you will press the ground away from you, lifting your chest and inviting a backbend. You will move forward onto the tops of your feet, with your thighs remaining elevated off of the ground.
6. Downward Facing Dog
As you exhale, you will lift your hips and press yourself back into a downward facing dog position.
In downward facing dog, first bend your knees. Press the ground away from you (really strong in your shoulders) and focus on bringing your chest towards your thighs. You should feel a nice stretch into your shoulders. THEN, you can work on straightening your legs/bringing your heels towards the ground.
7. Step (or jump) to the top of your mat
On the next inhale, you will lift your gaze towards your hands, and move (either stepping, or jumping) to the top of your mat.
(Jumping forward – notice how high my hips are over my hands – this is ideal. Especially if you want to add a handstand as you become more advanced.)
8. Forward Fold
You’ve been here before! Take an exhale as you sink into your forward fold.
9. Back to Standing
Finally, on your next inhale you will rise all the way up, hands coming overhead. Then, press your palms together and bring them through hearts center:
Finish it up as you inhale and return your hands overhead (maybe inviting a slight backbend):
Finally, exhale back into the forward fold / step 2 to repeat Vinyasa A or move on to the next part of the sequence. In this case, we’re moving on to Vinyasa B…
Vinyasa B Series
Once we finish three rounds of Vinyasa A, we step it up a notch by introducing Vinyasa B series. You’ll add two poses: warrior 1 and chair pose.
In the video class, I first bring you to hold warrior 1 on both sides. Then we increase the speed for a couple of rounds of Vinyasa B to add a little heat and get the heart rate up!
Once you finish Vinyasa A, you’ll step (or jump) forward and move right into a ‘chair pose’.
Here’s a look at what’s going on in this series of movements (starting from chair pose):
Good ol’ Utkatasana (that’s the sanscrit word for this pose).
Once we finish up our last sequence of Vinyasa A, you’re either going to step or jump to the top of your mat and move right into this position:
While lifting your arms, you’ll squat back like you’re sitting in a chair. Try not to sink forward, remember to lift your arms and your chest.
Then, just like in the last series, you’ll move through forward fold > halfway lift > high-to-low plank > upward facing dog (or baby cobra) > downward facing dog > …
From downward facing dog, bring your left leg forward into a lunge. Note, try to ‘hollow’ your body – pressing the ground away from you, extending the shoulders, tilting the pelvis and engaging the core – then bring your knee as high up towards your nose as you can:
Finally, step your foot as far forward as you can (you’ll likely have to adjust your footing) and drop your back foot at a 45-degree angle.
Rise into Warrior 1 lunge:
Keep your front knee stacked over your ankle. Both feet are planted into the ground. Your legs should be strong and active. Hips should be aligned. You’ll feel a nice stretch here along the front side of your body.
You will then continue the series by moving through low-plank > upward facing dog > downward facing dog > Warrior 1 (other side) > low-plank > upward facing dog > downward facing dog > chair pose.
In the yoga for soccer players video class, we’ll follow up the last Vinyasa B sequence by moving into Warrior 2.
After the last Vinyasa B sequence, you’ll step forward just like you did for Warrior 1. However this time, you’ll widen your stance and drop your back foot so it’s pointing at 90-degrees. Align your front foot so the heel is pointing towards your back foot. Again, stack your front knee over the ankle. Both legs feet planted. Legs are strong and active.
Try to keep your torso straight. Don’t lean forward, rather pull yourself towards your back leg.
Hold it here for a few breaths, then we’ll move into an ‘extended side-angle’ pose.
Extended Side Angle Pose
Simply bring your front elbow to your inner thigh. Don’t ‘rest’ into it by putting all of your weight into that arm. It should be light on your leg. Then, extend your top arm to create a nice stretch along the whole side of your body.
If you’re more flexible, you can bring your hand to the ground (you can also use a yoga block or book here):
Remember, legs stay strong and rooted.
In the yoga for soccer players class, we then move right into a crescent lunge. Here’s the funky movement we use to get there:
Swing your top arm along your side and through the front as you pivot onto the ball of your back foot. Both arms extend upward towards the sky.
Now your back heel is fully lifted off of the ground. Ball of your foot planted. Legs strong and engaged.
From here, we’ll open up into revolved side angle:
You can also drop your front hand and focus more on the twist:
Once we finish on this side, we’ll move through high-to-low plank > upward facing dog > downward facing dog > and then Warrior 2 on the other side (repeating the above movements).
Then, we cool it down with some deep stretches.
Slowing it Down
Finally, we’ll sink into some deeper stretches for your hips and legs.
Once you finish the other side in the last part, you’ll step forward again, but move into a low runners lunge.
This is a great stretch for your psoas. With your hips aligned, tuck your tailbone and tilt your gaze. As if you’re trying to look at your belt. This will deepen the stretch into your psoas.
You can also heal-toe your foot outward, then hinge forward, coming down onto your hands or forearms:
Maybe you stay at either one of these. You can also open your hip and roll onto the outside of your foot. To advance this, you can press your hand into your thigh to stretch more into the hip:
Finally, if you’re feeling really flixible, you can reach for the back foot:
To do so, bend your back leg, reaching your heel towards your butt. Reach for the foot with either your opposite hand hand, or wrap a strap around the ankle.
This is an advanced stretch that feels great on the quad muscle and hip!
Once you complete this on both sides, we’ll move into a great hip opener: ‘frog pose’.
Best Hip Stretch for Soccer Players: Frog Pose
This is one of those poses that many love and hate at the same time.
It feels great, but it also gets to be pretty intense on the hips!
First, bring your knees as wide as feels comfortable. Your shins will be parallel with each other. Don’t let your feet draw in. Hips should be right in line with the knees.
That should be an intense stretch already. But if you want more, you can also come down onto your forearms:
Or even alll the way down onto your chest:
Hold whichever position you feel is best for you for at least 20 seconds.
Finally, we finish up the class with some supine twists.
These are great to finish up class with. Simply lay down on your back, and bring your shins parallel with the ground. Bring your hips slightly to the right, as you drop your knees over to the left.
In the image above, I have my legs bound. This is not a requirement. But if you have the flexibility, you can bring your right leg over your left thigh, then wrap your right ankle under your left calf muscle.
Repeat on the other side, before extending your legs straight out along the mat. Lay there for a moment and let it all sink in!
Yoga For Soccer Players Conclusion
While I could have just given you some yoga poses, I decided to give you an ACTUAL yoga class. Based on controlled breathing and vinyasa sequences.
Athletes like Lionel Messi and Ronaldo are including power yoga into their routines. And now you can too! Remember to practice this class often. You will get better at these poses and your game will improve!
Finally, don’t forget to take a look around our website. It’s the home of where I continue to create yoga for weightlifters, athletes, and modern warriors!